Elliot Olsen has been retained by the second victim of the Water Oak Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Florida.

Dennis Nedza – a 69-year-old resident of Waterford, WI, who spends winters at Water Oak Country Club, a 55-plus retirement community in Lady Lake – first started feeling ill about April 1. He was hospitalized on April 12, and was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease a couple of days later.

Nedza, who was discharged April 17, lost 30 pounds during his illness. He has regained 10 pounds since but is still experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue.

The Florida Department of Health in Lake County confirmed the two Legionnaires’ cases at Water Oak in late April. Testing confirmed the existence of Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – in the club’s hot tub, which Nedza said he used daily.

Nedza joins a 61-year-old woman from the Chicago area in retaining Olsen’s services in separate lawsuits against Water Oak Country Club. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Olsen she became ill after visiting her brother at Water Oak in late March and using the hot tub at least five times.

The Chicago-area woman started feeling sick March 27. She said she figured she had flu as she and her husband drove home on the 28th and 29th. On April 2, her husband took her to the E.R. at Palos Hospital in suburban Palos Heights, and she was hospitalized for the next 11 days.

Olsen confident

Olsen, a Minneapolis-based attorney who is one of the country’s leading Legionnaires’ lawyers, said he is confident both clients have strong cases.

“Mr. Nedza lost a lot of weight while he was ill, and he is still suffering the effects of his illness seven weeks later,” Olsen said. “My other client is no longer hospitalized, but she is also still very weak. … Nobody using the Water Oak hot tub should suffer the way they have, and I intend to extract whatever justice I can.”

Gated community

Water Oak Country Club is an active, gated-community near The Villages, between Leesburg and Ocala, about 55 miles northwest of Orlando. Amenities include: golf course, tennis courts, horseshoe pit, bocce ball court, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and a fitness center that has both a Jacuzzi and sauna.

Legionnaires' disease

Legionella info

Legionnaires’ disease – sometimes called legionellosis or Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria, or Legionella pneumophila.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 25,000 Americans are sickened yearly with Legionnaires’, and about 2,500 victims will die. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.

Legionella bacteria are usually contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets (mist or vapor). Legionella grow best in warm water, and are primarily found in human-made environments.

Multiple sources have been proven to be conducive to the growth of Legionella:

  • hot tubs and whirlpools
  • swimming pools
  • showers and faucets
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • hot-water tanks and heaters
  • mist machines
  • hand-held sprayers
  • cooling towers used in air conditioning systems
  • plumbing systems used in large buildings
  • water systems, such as those in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
  • decorative fountains.

“Outbreak” definition
The CDC classifies a “Legionnaires’ disease outbreak” as happening when two or more people are exposed to Legionella bacteria and become ill in the same vicinity at about the same time.

Disease symptoms
Legionnaires’ disease symptoms are similar to those of other types of pneumonia, and include:

  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • severe headaches
  • gastrointestinal distress, which includes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

People at greatest risk
Anyone can become sick with Legionnaires’, but people who are most susceptible include:

  • people 50 years old or older
  • smokers, current and former
  • people with suppressed immune systems
  • heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages
  • people with chronic lung disease
  • organ-transplant recipients
  • people on specific drug protocols (corticosteroids, for example).